What are active and passive sentences?

Learning Mar 31, 2022


Knowing the difference between active and passive sentences is crucial in your journey to learn the English language for both conversational and writing purposes. A sentence is written in active voice when the subject of the sentence is performing the action. A sentence is written in passive voice when the subject of the sentence has something done to it by someone or somethingFor example:







The ball


The ball

Is being kicked

By Johnny

In Active sentences, the subject is that which is doing the action, which in this case in Johnny. The verb will always still in the middle, and the object (that which is receiving the action) will be last.

In Passive sentences, the subject and object swap to place more emphasis on the object. Passive sentences are mostly used when we talk about art, science, literature, giving directions or instructions, news reports and academic writing. 

When it is important to know who does the action, we use by. The noun that follows by is called the “agent.” Johnny was the subject in the active sentence, but it becomes the agent in the passive sentence. Sometimes, when the agent is unknown, or unimportant to the meaning of the sentence, we do not use by.

Please note that the helping verb in passive sentences is always a form of the verb be and also that when changing from active to passive, the tense must not change. 

Some more important rules for active and passive include:

We form the passive with be + past participle (3rd form of the verb).

In the present simple, the passive is: am / is / are + past participle (3rd form of the verb).


The past participle always stays the same. Only the form of be changes.

The subject and verb must always agree in number.

Here are some examples;



Harry ate five mussels at dinner.

At dinner, five mussels were eaten by Harry

Beautiful elephants roam the desert.

The desert is roamed by beautiful elephants.

Alex changed the flat tire.

The flat tire was changed by Alex

We are going to watch a movie tonight

A movie is going to be watched by us tonight.

Dad read the novel in one day.

The novel was read by Dad in one day.

Steve cleaned the entire house.

The entire house was cleaned by Steve.

The choir really enjoys that piece

That piece is really enjoyed by the choir.

The two kings are signing the treaty.

The treaty is being signed by the two kings.

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